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Hello fellow bibliophiles!

If you’re reading this blog, then the chances are high that you’re a total lover of books and all things literature – just like me.

This list of twelve literary places to visit in England aims to inspire you to finally take that literary tour of England you’ve been meaning to do for so long – whether you’ve got just one day to devote to a destination, or several to take in multiple stops as part of a longer UK trip itinerary.

I implore you to bookmark this blog post and keep coming back to it time and time again… ready for whenever you need new literary travel inspiration. 

Famous Literary Locations & Literary Places To Visit In England

1. Sedbergh, Cumbria

Sedbergh

Book towns are towns or villages that are home to large numbers of second-hand or antiquarian book stores, as well as literary festivals. They’re usually created in order to boost visitor numbers thanks to the bibliophile tourists (like me!) who flock to them in droves.

Although book towns exist all over the world, Sedbergh in Cumbria is England’s official book town and has been ever since 2003.

Throughout the town of Sedbergh, you’ll find books in some of the most unexpected places. Clothing stores, cafes, the local information centre and even a redundant bus shelter, now aptly named the ‘Book Shelter’, all have hoards of books for you to leaf through and buy. There’s also a rather large book shop, called Westwood Books, which is said to house over 70,000 titles at any one time – wowza!

As somewhere that is so entirely devoted to books, is it any wonder that Sedbergh tops this list of literary places to visit in England?

And… if you’re looking for more book towns in the UK, then Hay-on-Wye in Wales is easily the most famous one, while Wigtown has been officially designated as Scotland’s national book town since 1998.

2. Clovelly, North Devon

Clovelly Village

The quaint fishing village of Clovelly in North Devon, is one of the many literary sites in England that truly allows you to step back in time. World-famous for its cobbled, traffic-free streets, sledges pulled by donkeys, historic harbour and flower-strewn cottages that seem to just tumble down the cliff towards the sea. 

And it’s these views that have inspired many writers and works of fiction over the years.

Author of Westward Ho!, Charles Kingsley lived here when he was a child and returned many times as an adult; Rudyard Kipling mentioned the village in Stalky & Co.; and Charles Dickens described Clovelly in his novella, A Message from the Sea, saying: 

“. . . the village was built sheer up the face of a steep and lofty cliff. There was no road in it, there was no wheeled vehicle in it, there was not a level yard in it. From the sea-beach to the cliff-top two irregular rows of white houses, placed opposite to one another, and twisting here and there, and there and here, rose, like the sides of a long succession of stages of crooked ladders, and you climbed up the village or you climbed down the village by the staves between, some six feet wide or so, and made of sharp irregular stones. The old pack-saddle, long ago laid aside in most parts of England, as one of the appendages of its infancy, flourished here intact. Strings of pack-horses and pack-donkeys toiled slowly up the staves of the ladders, bearing fish, and coal, and such other cargo as was unshipping at the pier from the dancing fleet of village boats, and from two or three little coasting traders… No two houses in the village were alike, in chimney, size, shape, door, window, gable, roof-tree, anything. The sides of the ladders were musical with water, running clear and bright. The staves were musical with the clattering feet of the pack-horses and pack-donkeys, and the voices of the fishermen urging them up, mingled with the voices of the fishermen’s wives and their many children. The pier was musical with the wash of the sea, the creaking of capstans and windlasses, and the airy fluttering of little vanes and sails. The rough, sea-bleached boulders of which the pier was made, and the whiter boulders of the shore, were brown with drying nets. The red-brown cliffs, richly wooded to their extremest verge, had their softened and beautiful forms reflected in the bluest water, under the clear North Devon sky of a November day without a cloud. The village itself was so steeped in autumnal foliage, from the houses lying on the pier to the topmost round of the topmost ladder, that one might have fancied it was out a bird’s-nesting, and was (as indeed it was) a wonderful climber.”

You might also want to visit nearby Westward Ho!, seemingly the only village in the UK to be named after a book, following the success of Charles Kingsley’s novel.

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3. Lyme Regis, Dorset

Lyme Regis

Throughout the 19th century, Lyme Regis in Dorset was a highly fashionable seaside resort town for the British middle and upper classes to flock to during the summer months. 

Some of the town’s most famous literary visitors include Oscar Wilde, Beatrix Potter, and – perhaps the most famous of all – Jane Austen.

During Beatrix Potter’s visit, she started working on her second book, The Tale of Little Pig Robinson, and sketched multiple scenes within Lyme, including a view of Broad Street, which is actually on display in the Lyme Regis Museum today. 

Jane Austen, on the other hand, was even more inspired by this quintessentially English resort town. After she’d spent some time in Lyme in 1804, Austen wrote her final novel, Persuasion, which was partly set in Lyme Regis itself. 

In particular, the Cobb harbour wall is the setting for a rather iconic moment for young Louisa, which was re-enacted on screen for the 2007 TV adaptation of Persuasion starring Sally Hawkins.

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4. Oxford, Oxfordshire

University of Oxford

Home to one of the world’s most prestigious universities, it should come as no surprise that Oxford, the city of dreaming spires, makes its way onto this list of stops to add to your England literary tour.

From JRR Tolkein and Philip Pullman, to CS Lewis and Lewis Carroll, Oxford has long been a stomping ground for the literary elite – and there are so many novel treasures waiting for you here.

Within your Oxford itinerary, you should make it your mission to:

  • Explore the dusty tomes at Bodleian Library
  • Wander the grounds of Christ Church College, which is said to have inspired many of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
  • Photograph Merton College, which bore witness to Tolkein jotting down multiple story ideas
  • Walk through the covered market, which was a favourite haunt of Pullman’s heroine, Lyra
  • Have a drink and a chat at The Eagle and Child, which is said to have been the meeting place for Inklings, a literary discussion group, which Tolkein and CS Lewis were both members of 

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5. London

London at night

Of all the stops on this England literary tour, London is perhaps one of the more cliche suggestions. 

And yet, the UK’s capital city is so intrinsically linked to some of the country’s most prolific writers and famous works of fiction, that it simply warrants writing about.

In fact, Culture Trip actually cites London as the most literary city in the world.

Although you could probably spend weeks exploring London’s literary haunts, some of the city’s most famous literary locations include Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, the British Library, Baker Street, which is home to a lot of Sherlock Holmes paraphernalia and even a museum, London’s most charming and beautiful bookshops and all the Harry Potter locations you can manage.

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Are you looking for UK or England literary tours? Check out some of these on Get Your Guide: 

 

6. J.K. Rowling’s Exeter

Exeter

Nicknamed the capital of the South West, the Roman city of Exeter is most known for its prestigious university and one of the uni’s most famous graduates: J.K. Rowling, creator of the fantasy world of Harry Potter.

Rowling earned a BA in French and Classics in 1986 and it’s believed that Exeter and its surrounding areas were a source of immense inspiration for the Harry Potter series.

Boutique-lined Gandy Street is said to have inspired Diagon Alley, The Vaults Nightclub, with its white, curved facade on a street corner facing Gandy Street is Gringotts Bank incarnate, while the similarities between the door to the Room of Requirement and the door at No. 10 Cathedral Close are uncanny.

Outside of Exeter, there are also a number of towns and villages that are said to have inspired various Harry Potter references. 

For example, Budleigh Salterton on the coast lends its name to Budleigh Babberton, the village were Horace Slughorn hides out in a Muggle house; Chudleigh is home to the Chudley Cannons; Ottery St Mary sounds a lot like Ottery St Catchpole, and Ilfracombe is known to be the location of the ‘Ilfracombe Incident’ in 1932, which saw a Common Welsh Green dragon attack a group of sunbathing Muggles.

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7. Jane Austen’s Bath

Bath

Bath’s literary references are most commonly from the 18th century onwards. However, it’s interesting to know that one of the city’s earliest literary mentions is in Chaucer’s Tale: The Wife of Bath (circa 1405 – 1410).

But perhaps most synonymous with Bath is Jane Austen. She lived there from 1801 to 1806, and although it’s widely known that she didn’t really like living in Bath, the city does feature prominently as a fashionable spa town within two of her novels: Persuasion and Northanger Abbey.

And despite Austen’s dislike for the city, Bath is actually mentioned rather favourably within Northanger Abbey several times over. For example:

“They arrived in Bath. Catherine was all eager delight; – her eyes were here, there, everywhere, as they approached its fine and striking environs, and afterwards drove through those streets which conducted them to the hotel. She was come to be happy, and she felt happy already.”

Today, you can visit The Jane Austen Centre, which depicts Austen’s life in Bath and the effect it had on her writing, as well as the Regency Tea Room upstairs, which enables you to step back in time, complete with traditional cakes, tea and scones.

It’s also worth visiting the Royal Crescent, which is home to terraced Georgian homes and is an iconic image when thinking about TV and film adaptations of Austen’s novels.

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8. Thomas Hardy’s Dorset

Dorset

Dorset’s patchwork hills, chocolate box villages, motorway-free traffic and ocean vistas have inspired many – but none more so than Thomas Hardy himself.

His semi-fictional Wessex, which was the setting for many of his novels, short stories and poetry, is said to have been inspired by the landscapes surrounding Dorchester. 

And because of this close affiliation, Dorset has actually been nicknamed Thomas Hardy Country.

Today, you can follow Hardy’s life from his birthplace in Higher Bockhampton to his home at Max Gate, then on to his final resting place at St Michael’s Church. 

You can also learn more about his life and work at the Dorset Country Museum and Hardy memorial, before finally exploring the countryside that inspired one of this country’s most gifted writers.

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9. Bram Stoker’s Whitby

Whitby

The seaside town and port of Whitby in North Yorkshire has a rich connection with literature.

One of the earliest known works of English literature is said to have come from Whitby: the first-known Anglo Saxon poet, Cædmon was a monk at the order that used Whitby Abbey during the abbacy of St Hilda from AD 657 – 680.

Since then, the town is said to have been a great source of inspiration for many prolific writers including Charles Dickens and Lewis Carroll. But perhaps most famously of all, Whitby was the setting for part of Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula. 

Connections include Whitby being the first sighting in England of the blood-thirsty Dracula, the graveyard at St Mary’s Church detailing the name of Dracula’s first victim (Swales), and the iconic 199 steps leading to Whitby Abbey were also mentioned within Stoker’s descriptions of the town once Dracula had arrived there.

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10. Shakespeare’s Stratford-Upon-Avon

Stratford-upon-Avon

The bewitching market town of Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire is steeped in over 800 years worth of history. But arguably its biggest draw lies in its connections with none other than William Shakespeare.

The 16th-century poet was born in Stratford, and spent much of his early years here, as well as his final years. The town was also once home to Shakespeare’s daughter, Susanna, as well as Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway.

Today, you can truly walk in the bard’s footsteps by visiting his birthplace, as well as the other family homes. 

While you’re here, you should also book a Royal Shakespeare Company play, which are often shown at either the Royal Shakespeare Theatre or adjacent Swan Theatre.

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11. Beatrix Potter’s Lake District

Lake District, England

Beatrix Potter, the loving creator of Peter Rabbit, has a deep-rooted connection with the Lake District. 

As a child, she had many holidays to the lakes, which is said to have inspired all of the charming characters we know and love today: Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddle-Duck, Benjamin Bunny, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle and Tom Kitten, among others.

With the proceeds from her books and a legacy from an aunt, Potter eventually went on to buy Hill Top Farm in a village called Near Sawrey, alongside other farming land and properties.

Having left 4,000 acres of land to the National Trust upon her death in 1943, there are now a number of Beatrix Potter locations to visit today. 

These include Hill Top Farm itself, The Beatrix Potter Gallery in Hawkshead, the World of Beatrix Potter Attraction in Bowness-on-Windermere and Wray Castle on the shores of Lake Windermere.

You could easily spend a long weekend devoted to all things Beatrix Potter – and cute yet mischievous animals… 

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12. The Brontë Sisters’ Haworth

Haworth

The sleepy village of Haworth in West Yorkshire once had some rather famous residents: none other than the Brontë sisters.

They were born in Thornton, just outside Bradford, but wrote most of their famous works while living at the Haworth Parsonage (now looked after by the Brontë Society).

Today, you can follow one of the village’s most famous walks: the Brontë Way, which leads past Lower Laithe Reservoir to Brontë Falls, Brontë Bridge and the Brontë Stone Chair, in which it’s said that the sisters took turns to sit in while writing their first stories. 

From here, you can follow this famous literary trail up on the moors and to Top Withens, which is supposedly a major source of inspiration for Emily Brontë’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ and many Heathcliff moors scenes.

As for the village of Haworth itself, just imagine bustling tea rooms, colourful window boxes and red post boxes, Union Jack bunting and picturesque views of the nearby moors – and you’ll quickly understand why this is also a charming village to visit, regardless of the literary connection.

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I hope this list of twelve literary places in England has inspired you in some small way. Which one are you most excited to visit first? And are there any other places you can recommend to add to an England literary tour? I’m always on the hunt for new suggestions! Let me know in the comments below…

Have you now got itchy feet? Leafing through well-thumbed pages in the hopes of visiting somewhere that inspired the book you’re reading? Share the literary wanderlust around now!

9 thoughts on “12 Beautiful & Historic Literary Places To Visit In England

  1. Oh my God, reading this really brings me back to England … how I miss this country. It’s amazing how you can tell us pretty detail about every neighborhood, what’s the landmark etc. And I’m just like, I’ve been there, done that in every neighborhood mentioned here… so thank you!

  2. Rachel says:

    Haworth is my absolute favourite…anyone going there MUST visit the Parsonage, you get to stand in the actual room where the sisters wrote their novels, and you see their little writing desks and everything, it’s just incredible!

    1. It’s definitely a special trip to make!

  3. Bliss says:

    These were great recommendations! I knew about Hey on Wye but not Sedberg. Added it to the list

    1. I’m glad you liked it! I hope you’ll get to visit Sedbergh one day 🙂

  4. Love this list so much!! I want to visit every single one of these! Pinning for future reference and to fill my book lover soul. 🙂

    1. Woop woop, glad to hear it Nicole… enjoy visiting each and every one of them! Which do you think will be first? 😉

  5. Caroline @ Pack The Suitcases says:

    Hi Justine, love this post! Have you been to Barter Books in Alnwick? I think you’d love it 🙂

    1. Thanks Caroline, I’m glad to hear it!
      And oooh I have not… Googling it right now! 😀

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